Sally Boulton, Head of Talent at Tribal Worldwide London, tells us about the importance of looking after our mental health and how agencies can go about creating a better workplace.

The focus on mental health has been a big priority over the last two years, having reached a climax with World Mental Health Day, the appointment of the UK’s first suicide prevention minister, and building concerns about the NHS’s ability to tackle the growing crisis.

After being asked to speak at Good Women: World Mental Health Day, I started to reflect on how simple it was for businesses to drive genuine change in the agency space when it comes to mental health. It quickly became apparent that real impact comes from small, simple attitudinal changes, changes that don’t come with a price tag. So for those of you reaching for the purse strings, I’ve summarised 10 things that you can implement into your daily routine that will change the mental health of your agency.

  1. Ask “How are you?”

This is one of the most open questions we can ask. Asking “how are you” shows that, even if we aren’t experts, we care and can empathise with our colleagues; a mantra that everyone in our management team follows. So, if you see someone looking tired, notice a change in their behaviour, or that they are isolating themselves, sometimes the best course of action is to just ask the question. Making people feel seen makes them feel safe.

2. Listen
Listening has no impact on your bottom line, yet, it’s not always simple, especially if you’re naturally a talkative, “solutions” focused person. But taking the time to open your ears can have a huge impact on an individual’s wellbeing. Give people time. No distractions, no interruptions. Don’t fill the space. Engage. Focus, and let them do the talking. Observe their body language, as it says a lot. And most importantly, respect and do not judge.

3. Put the kettle on.
A cup of tea can make the world of difference to someone. It’s a simple thing to do, yet it often gets overlooked.

4. Offer support and advice.
There are a lot of resources online to support your staff. Spend a bit of time googling and curating information, then put it in an accessible place for everyone. We’ve created a discrete infographic poster about small things to do to improve your mental well-being which we hang in our bathrooms — it mostly goes unnoticed — however for the people that need it, it’s there. As mental health first aiders, we are taught that we should not try to solve people’s problems, but point them in the direction of expert help. You would be amazed at the amount of free stuff out there, including events and talks. If a fellow colleague confides in you, always follow up, reassure and keep the conversation going.

5. Go for a group walk
We all know that fresh air and exercise is one of the best ways to improve mental health. Make it a regular thing to get people together, enjoy the sunshine or to get some fresh air. We run regular Tribal walks. It gets people outside and socialising with people that they don’t usually get to talk to. It’s even better with a dog and we have three that regularly come to the agency — a bit of furry therapy goes a long way!

6. Create a quiet space in your office.

With open office plans taking over the last decade, it’s often hard to find a quiet space to hear yourself think. It might not be immediately obvious, but sometimes you just need to move some furniture around; it can prove especially helpful within a neuro-diverse agency. In a recent staff survey, this one of the most highly requested changes to the environment.

7. Organise morning meditation.
This one was a little outside of the box, as I am not sure everyone is keen to do this so publically but we trialled it on last year’s World Mental Health day, and it did start a trend in the office because people realised the benefits.

8. Try mandalas or colouring books.
Pop some in a quite space, in meeting rooms, in the breakout area or even in meetings. These were hugely popular at Tribal and cost next to nothing.

9. Organize craft classes.

Give your team members a chance to flex the other side of their brain and do something completely different that takes them offline. On the back of a creative writing class, we now run a free writing/ poetry class lead by our Ops Manager, which has proved hugely successful.

10. Look after yourself.

Finally, and most importantly, you must take care of yourself. Sometimes in a support role we forget about this.